The End of Anxiety

I had to put off flying lessons for a few weeks to tend to some unexpected travel. When I came back, I was surprised to discover how much I missed it. I was excited to see Tom and eager to get up in the air.

I’ve been taking lessons steadily since the latter part of August. (August 18th was my first lesson, and we’re now rounding into November.) That’s about two and a half months of consistent flying, and in that time I’ve discovered a real appetite for it. I’ve written in earlier posts about my reluctance to leave the house, and it’s true that I prefer nothing more than getting out of bed and heading to my desk and spending the day writing. And so it must be something very attractive that would prompt me to put my shoes on, walk to the garage, drive out to New Jersey, and drop out for the afternoon, and to do that three times a week.

What is it? It’s the basic thrill. It’s also the improved proficiency. The more time I spend flying, the better I get. The better I get, the more I grow in confidence. The more I grow in confidence, the more fun I have.

And the more I look forward to the challenges. Not too long ago, I was full of anxiety about the solo flight. I knew it was out there, lurking, a thing on the horizon. A date with destiny. Anxiety made me turn away from it, anxiety and a healthy understanding of my skill level. I wasn’t ready.

I’m still not ready, exactly, but by a far smaller margin. If I were flying along with Tom only to look over and suddenly find him gone, as if after some genie’s nod, I could get the plane down. Perhaps not prettily. It might involved more than a few dozen go-arounds and a bounce or two, but I could do it.

What’s just as thrilling, the prospect doesn’t balloon me with fear. Tom’s been a good teacher, and I’ve been a willing and diligent student. We’ve spent many hours together in the air. We’ve covered the basics and the contingencies. The result is a healthy psychology: I feel not anxious but prepared and capable. That’s as much an achievement as pitching for speed or a perfect greaser landing.